I struck out
Riding along on my pushbike on Tuesday morning I felt joyously French. Not only was I riding a pushbike (which you only need to see the Flight of the Concords ‘faux do fa fa’ song to know that all French are velo lovers) but the reason that I was there and not on some public transport was because there was a strike on. ‘Oh how great the French are for banding together and sticking up for their rights, they are an example to us all, such proud and determined people’ I was thinking as the chill morning wind rushed through my hair. And then ‘BANG’. My front tyre popped, good and proper. With no other option to get to work on time, I rode the next 9 kilometres with a completly flat tyre accompanied by the soundtrack of flappy rubber slapping my front forks. All I could do was wave and smile to the people who turned their heads as I cycled past, the same people no doubt who had forced me onto the flingin flangin bike in the first place. Making some inroads to calm my now very anti-strike attitude was a table set up at the train station with free orange juice and lollies for people who were affected. It was a nice try.
This latest social disturbance is brought about by the changes in the age of retirement. It used to be 40 years people would have to work before they were cared for, and it is going to be 42. The workers have put on big demonstrations walking through the streets several times now on selected days with banners and flares, and now it is the students turn. In Australia, a student strike seems almost laughable – ‘students skip class all the time, it’s no biggie’. In France though they have some clout. From my classroom yesterday where I was teaching I could hear the cheers of thousands of students who had congregated in the main square, and one of my English learners warned that it was likely they were going to turn over and burn cars, again. There have even been references to the May 1968 student riots which prompted further national riots leading to 23 percent of the workforce shutting down and the deaths of several protesters. With no sign of it winding down in sight, it could be a good idea to get a new tyre.
The French take their cheese, bread and strikes very seriously and with experience in all they are not to be taken lightly.